During his visit to Estonia on June 21, the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso emphasized that it is vital to reach an agreement on the Rail Baltica project, reports Eesti Paevaleht.
“It is absolutely vital for the Baltic States to reach an agreement on the principles and the vision for this project of 3.6 billion euros, 85 percent of which, by the way, could be financed from the European Cohesion Fund,” said Barroso in the interview to the daily.
He cautioned that unless a properly prepared project is submitted for funding application, there is always a risk that the resources would be directed elsewhere. “Rail Baltica is one of the key projects in the pan-European Transport Networks policy. No other project originating from the Baltic States can show an added value for the entire EU that could come close,” said the President of the Commission.
With this pressure in mind, negotiating groups representing the Baltic States finally clinched a deal on provisions for the joint Rail Baltica company shareholders’ agreement, necessary to get the project moving.
It was also mutually agreed to include Vilnius on the route, with the decision to seek European Union funding for this extra connection. The deal was struck during trilateral negotiations in Estonia’s capital Tallinn on June 18.
The draft project of the joint Rail Baltica company shareholder agreement now has to be presented to the governments of the Baltic countries.
The enterprise, managed jointly by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, will undertake work needed to ensure funding for the rail project. The European standard gauge railway track will connect Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, Kaunas, Vilnius and Warsaw, and will extend to Berlin.
Lithuania’s Minister of Transport and Communications Rimantas Sinkevicius was pleased that a solution was reached and signed between the countries. The minister said it is a significant moment which will pave the way for actual implementation of the project.
The joint venture will be headquartered in Riga, while each national segment of the railway will remain the property of its respective state.